When you are an editor, you are not averse to grammatical mistakes once in a blue moon. No one is.
You are not supposed to know every word in the dictionary, and you cannot be expected to be the ever-ready grammar book. But you are supposed to know two things: how to find the unknown information quickly through your resources and how to accept your mistake.
Even the best editors and writers make mistakes. Making a mistake is not a mistake. Not accepting your mistake is. To me, humbleness and fussiness are two of the required qualities in an editor. You should be fussy enough to find faults with copies that are ready to be put to bed and humble enough to admit you faltered, if you did.
I had the pleasure to discuss one fine point with a humble editor once. A reputed literary firm in England was organising a short story competition in 2008, and I was thinking of submitting one of my short stories. But I was appalled to spot a grammatical mistake in one of their web pages. The following is what happened between me and the editor of that literary firm. They have corrected the mistake since then, so you’ll not be able to Google-find the exact phrase now.
My email to them in 2008
The following web page from your website contains a grammatical mistake that I just can’t overlook, being a stickler for correct English usage.
“With the wealth of variety in both style and content, no two writer handles the same subject in the same light, bringing to the table talent and imagination that is both moving and thought provoking.”
The error in question is in the bold words. It should be ‘no two writers handle….’ Kindly correct that.
I like to submit my short story in your short story competition, but before that I wish to see the correction materialise.
If I had seen this mistake anywhere else, I could’ve overlooked. But not on your website; you deal with English language. You have to keep it straight. It gives a very bad impression when a leading literary website is making grammatical goof-ups, displacing the fundamentals of English language. You even offer subediting and proofreading services!
Any potential customer for your proofreading services will have second thoughts after reading the erroneous sentence. He’d be better off going to your competitors.
You owe me a big thanks for bringing it to your notice. You can look forward to an increase in business after you correct the said mistake. Trust me.
Thanks and regards,
The reply to my email the next day
Thank you for getting in contact and for pointing out the grammatical error on our Novel Competition contents page.
In fact, I clearly remember deliberating over that sentence and although the correct reference looked right on paper, to my ear it sounded weak, however, I failed to lean on the side of logic. My sincere apologies. In hindsight I should have referred to my team.
Please be assured that our proofreaders are highly trained individuals and continue to provide a thorough and detailed service. I have since created a system whereby before any work is uploaded onto the website it is thoroughly checked by my team as a back up for potential mishaps.
If you have any other thoughts or questions please do not hesitate to get in touch again.